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Lyn Devonald is chair of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group
Three wishes is the classic number. My first for 1995 is that the Lord Chancellor announces that he is now in a position to carry out a review of eligibility levels for legal aid to include raising the threshold at which family credit recipients are required to pay u10 a week towards legal aid and also re-introducing the contributory system towards green form advice.
People of conspicuously modest means are still not able to afford the contributions required to gain access to representation. In the guise of curtailing legal aid for the rich on a sample of three or four cases, further cuts are in effect introduced as homeowners, including the elderly, now fail to qualify.
The second wish is for the Lord Chancellor to recognise the commitment of legal aid practitioners by announcing that the freeze on their pay rates will be removed and a sensible increase allowed.
Again no announcement will be made other than to say that having considered the profession's representations, as there are still some solicitors somewhere who will carry out legal aid work at the rates that he is offering, there is really no problem and the freeze continues.
The final wish is for the Legal Aid Board to announce that it will undertake a radical review of its forms and procedures with a view to simplifying all of them, particularly developing forms which are user friendly to the IT equipment solicitors have been encouraged to install.
Again I am likely to be disappointed and will still be handwriting and completing boxes on complex forms in Christmas 1995. I will be consoled by the knowledge that several legal aid lawyers found that their talents in completing these forms were eminently suited to new careers as crossword compilers.